Of course you love your skis, and you either love or hate your ski boots. But the often overlooked relationship between a skier and their gloves could be the most important, and the most intimate. Can we call it love?
These under-appreciated workhorses are crucial to a good ski day but they also get used for so much more than just the skiing. A solid pair of gloves help you do all the things you need to do before you point’em downhill, and then work great when you do. Maybe you start your morning shovelling the driveway and use them as work gloves, then you hop in the cold car, and they’re driving gloves as you navigate your way to the hill. Once you are in the mountains, they need to keep you warm while allowing you to adjust your layers, open zippers, or tend to your goggles. When you stop for lunch, they might double as oven mitts while you sip hot tea. Zipping home and trying to act responsibly, you’ll use them for any sort of yard work, for taking out the trash, or for walking the dog.
Ski/work gloves getting the job done in a backcountry hut.
The perfect glove is different for every skier, but the best ones keep you warm while also being breathable enough to avoid sweaty hands. Leather is the most common material for a reason: the combination of durability (if it’s good leather that’s well-stitched), breathability, and feel.
Hestra might just make the best ski gloves in the world. And that’s not a marketing pitch; it’s just a fact. Other companies make good gloves, but Hestra only makes good gloves. Since 1936 they have been making gloves in Sweden that skiers all over the world adore. With supple leather and different natural-fibre liners, it’s hard to buy other brands after you’ve tried them.
Hestra gloves - nearly perfect right out off the rack.
That said, there are less expensive gloves a skier can fall in love with. You want to avoid the cheap gloves made of synthetics that include a plastic barrier (basically a plastic bag around your hand) to make them waterproof. These won’t breathe at all and often aren’t durable enough to stand up to a serious ski season.
You can find decent gloves that aren’t leather for the vegan skier, but you need to be prepared to hunt for them.
Rubber gloves with a fuzzy lining are popular in Japan - maybe not warm enough for the Rockies?
A glove you’ll fall in love with first needs to have the dexterity and flexibility to grip your ski poles all day (and do all the things human hands do on a regular). Good gloves achieve this mobility by having properly articulated fingers and supple enough materials, but that’s just a starting point. After that, it’s great if they can be slipped on and off easily, and tightened or adjusted quickly (even with cold fingers). To make them last onger, some gloves have a reinforced patch you can bite on as you pull them off. Others have an extra layer of leather stitched on to the high use and high friction parts of your hand.
Some gloves have removable liners, making them easier to dry, but that advantage might not be worth the hassle if the liner pulls out every time you take them off. You need your gloves to fit tight enough to maintain dexterity, but Rockies skiers will also want enough room to make a fist inside of their gloves so that they can warm up their hands while they ride the lift.
Hoji showing off his rubber gloves for coastal storm days.
What about mitts you might ask? You bet! In the mid-winter chill at Lake Louise, you’ll be happy for the added warmth. Any loss in ski pole control or dexterity will be made up for by comfort and the ability to ski for longer. This season, when we are all eating lunch and apres in the parking lot, an extra warm pair of puffy down or synthetic loft mitts might be just the ticket. Find the biggest, warmest ones you can and leave them in the car if you don’t want to ski with them.
The real debate is whether to buy long gloves that will go over the cuffs of your jacket or go for a pair of gloves that are built to slide under your sleeves. There are passionate defenders of both techniques who will make compelling arguments, but the truth is, either system can work well and it’s up to the individual skier to find their answer. Are your jacket sleeves long enough and loose enough to fit over gloves? Do you love the security of tightening glove cuffs over your sleeve with a satisfying pull of the drawstring?
Popular with ski patrollers, Kincos are cheap and durable, but they take years to break in and are never very warm.
In the end, we all just want gloves or mittens that will keep us from losing feeling in our fingers when it’s cold and that allow us to do all the tiny tasks we need to perform in a day without removing our gloves a hundred times. But find a pair of gloves or mitts that checks all of your boxes and you’ll have found more than just trusted ski partners. You will have found something that, at least in a skier’s world, can pass for true love.